What should I do if my neighbor harvested trees from my property and offered compensation but I’m not sure if it’s a fair price?

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What should I do if my neighbor harvested trees from my property and offered compensation but I’m not sure if it’s a fair price?

My neighbor recently admitted to “accidentally” cutting down about three acres of forest from my 10-acre parcel of undeveloped land in MO. I live out of state and need advice. The neighbor offered $1000 compensation based on a “stump count” and the amount he received for his trees. I don’t want to rock the boat too much with him since I’m out of state and want to maintain a good relationship with him, but I don’t want to be ripped off either. Where do I start to find out if this is worth pursuing? I don’t have lots of cash to pay fees up-front on this.

Asked on August 7, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Missouri

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If someone steals or destroys your property, you are entitled to, at a minimum, the then-current fair market value of the property. So, if the value of the wood (for lumber; for firewood; etc.) is, say, $10,000, that is what you are entitled to. Determine the value of that much wood (you can probably find it on the internet; you can also calling lumberyards, sawmills, etc.) and that's the amount you should receive. If the neighbor will not voluntarily pay that amount, you'd need to sue him to recover it, so at some point, you may elect to either take what he offers or see if you can't work out some mutually agreeable price. Note that what he claims he received--or even what he actually did get for  the wood--is irrelevant; the fact that he may have made a bad deal does not diminish your rights.


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